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Opening channels of communication between the associated candidate countries and the EU in ecological farming

Final Report Summary - CHANNEL (Opening channels of communication between the associated candidate countries and the EU in ecological farming)

In the participating countries the characteristics of organic agriculture are different, concerning the stage of development, the forms of organisation, the legislative system, the economic framework and the cultural background. Our aim is to help harmonisation and equalisation processes of the knowledge on the field of organic agriculture in the old, the new and the candidate EU countries.

To reach our goals we decided to create a common database with information about the main fields of organic farming in the participating countries. The thematic groups are identical with our workgroups; these are plant protection, organic seed and propagation material, animal husbandry, agrotechnology, weed management and soil fertility.

The CHANNEL project can be reached through Internet from the beginning of the project, and at our website we have a discussion forum to communicate as well. We created a questionnaire for all workgroups to collect data, which has three levels (public authorities and decision makers, farmers' associations and advisors, researchers) and beside these we have one general questionnaire.

At the first meeting in November 2004 in Malta we discussed the form and the content of the questionnaires. The first wave of the survey was carried out from January to March 2005. Data collection was carried out by the active involvement of the national representatives and under the control of the workgroup leaders. The national representatives sent out the questionnaires to the target persons, who sent them back after filling the data in. Then the data were supervised and put into the online form of the questionnaires on our webpage by the national representatives, who had the right to access the database. National representatives are responsible for the validity and correctness of the collected data in both surveys.

On the second meeting in Ceske Budejovice in May 2005 we evaluated the first part of our work and the problems arose during that time. We made some changes in the questionnaires, because there were some overlapping and some questions that could not be answered for technical or financial reasons. We agreed in the number of the questionnaires to collect then.

The second wave of the survey lasted from the middle of May 2005 to the end of July 2005. The data were continuously filled in the online versions on our homepage. After completing the questionnaires at the end of the first reporting period in November 2005 we planned to finish the compiled versions of the questionnaires. The second wave results were evaluated during the third meeting in Cesis, Latvia, between 9 and 14 January 2006. Also we discussed the organising process and plans of the final disseminating conference. The final conference was held at Budapest between 5 and 7 April 2006 where results of CHANNEL project were shown for a wider audience from all around Europe.

As a result of our work we collected available data concerning organic farming in the participating countries. This data base a large common database in organic farming, from which the consolidated checked results are available for all interested experts, scientist or students at http://www.channel.uni-corvinus.hu under 'Final conference presentations' and CHANNEL conference CD 'Country profiles and Abstracts'. CHANNEL project was introduced on several forums in Europe. We have excellent relations with the SAFO programme and have taken part on the Joined Organic Congress that was held in June 2006.

Our knowledge was disseminated through leaflets and newsletters and the final CHANNEL disseminating conference where the heads of the leading researching programmes, researchers, experts, decision makers and others interested, mainly organic farmers and students have taken part from the old, the new and the candidate countries of the EU. This provided an excellent opportunity for these people to meet and discuss the state-of-art in organic farming, the research and educational programmes on this field. These communication channels we established during the project will serve as an important tool in the harmonisation process. Beside this the results from the database and presentations of the final conference are available for all the participants and those who are involved and interested in organic farming.

Due to our work the EU gets a clear idea about the situation of organic farming in the participating countries, and these countries get acquainted with each other's organic farming. It helps in harmonising the level of knowledge about organic agriculture and familiarising this in the widest possible scope of stakeholders and all interested. The CHANNEL website has 1 303 461 visitors until now. This is available: http://www.channel.uni-corvinus.hu.

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